Software Engineering, Startup Thinking

Rooting innovation in principles around continuous learning and improvement can help companies better align themselves with speed, agility, and iteration in software development.

Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer

July 5, 2024

4 Min Read
lightbulb sticking out of a blue box
Rosaline Napier via Alamy Stock

Faster, iterative software development means getting faster feedback from end-users, instead of spending more time in search of developing the perfect piece of software. The reality is that most software that is created is ultimately never used, so the key is to avoid making software that isn’t used. 

Software developers have a better chance of achieving this if the software they are creating has been tested often by end-users and tailored to be as engaging and valuable as possible. 

Benjamin Brial, founder of, explains that for any large organization, developing a startup approach to innovation is about people, tools and culture. “Only by challenging accepted patterns in these areas can they then start to think about changing their mindsets,” he says in an email interview.  

This first requires breaking down the silos that exist and forming agile relationships between development and operations teams that can accelerate delivery of software to support business operations and improve customer experience. 

Second, it’s about attracting the best people by showing them that the developer experience in the organization is both rewarding and liberating and ensuring that they are empowered to do the best job they were hired to do. 

Related:What IT Leaders Can Learn From Shadow IT

“Thirdly, as with any work culture -- remote or hybrid -- it’s about knowing where to find what you need and how to collaborate with other teams in the organization,” he says. 

From Brial's perspective, tooling is a great place to start, so organizing them in a way that helps with the culture is a huge step forward. “In a multi-cloud, multi-vendor environment, there isn’t going to be one tool that does it all so the key is to allow teams to use the tools they love and automate as much as possible to remove the repetitive tasks,” he says.  

Kirsten Paust, senior vice president at Fortive Business System Office, says that an emphasis on the importance of iterative development, where continuous feedback loops support to refine and improve products and processes over time, is also critical. 

“It’s central to how we bring new innovations to market, not only as a means of efficiency but as a core strategy for delivering impactful outcomes in software development and innovation,” she explains in an email interview.  

She admits driving any kind of innovation within established companies can be a challenge. “I think of fostering a startup mentality as a requirement in cultivating a successful innovation-first strategy," she says. 

This type of lean mentality emphasizes agility, risk-taking, and rapid iteration -- all key components of thinking outside the box and bringing creativity to the forefront. 

Related:NY Tech Week Talks Software Development and the New Era of AI

Breaking Down Silos  

Brial says the challenge for organizations trying to adopt a more agile approach is that there are often simply too many silos, not enough skilled people, and a saturated technology market with too many tools. 

“Turning around a culture like this that prohibits scale is time-consuming and takes on average, three years to achieve,” he says. 

Given that the end goal of developing a more agile approach is to generate untrammeled innovation across an organization, getting the culture right is critical. 

He explains that developers need an environment where they have the confidence to innovate and contribute back to their community, help grow the business, improve their skill sets and further their careers without being limited by the people, practices and tools around them. 

Paust notes that often, the emphasis on standardized processes can stifle creativity and lead to an aversion to risk. 

“Established companies should aim to harness the creative capacity for people and embrace change as a means to achieve better outcomes,” she says. "Understanding and managing change is critical." 

Related:Can Your Developers Benefit from Platform Engineering?

By providing a systematic approach to continuous improvement and a framework to guide their teams through each stage of software development, from idea generation to delivery, it’s possible to inspire teams to continuously improve and create great outcomes no matter the scale. 

Internal Programs, Hierarchy-Free Hackathons 

Paust says another best practice is to implement internal programs to create ideas and test and deliver solutions, as these are crucial for balancing agility with quality and scalability. 

She points to programs like Fortive’s hackathons and their partnership with Pioneer Square Labs in Seattle are critical to bringing employees together for intensive problem-solving activities and in environments where there is no hierarchy, just a focus on unlocking new value. 

“I believe these practices can help leaders, teams and the entire company embrace change,” she says.  

Cross-Functional Teams, Everything as Code 

Brial says he recommends fostering an environment where cross-functional teams bring together individuals from different departments like development, operations and security, to work collaboratively toward a common goal. 

This requires cross-training, where team members can gather knowledge and skills in areas beyond their core expertise. 

Developers learn about infrastructure and operations, while operations engineers gain insights into software development practices. 

“This cross-pollination of skills builds an understanding and sense of empathy between teams,” he says.  

Brial says every layer of an IT department should be moving toward “everything” as code, noting provisioning and deploying (and then managing) any type of software is costly, time-consuming and complex. 

Everything as code applies the same principles of version control, testing, and deployment to enhance maintainability and scalability of all aspects of the development lifecycle, including networking infrastructure, documentation, and configuration. 

“This increases speed and scale exponentially since machines can execute code far faster than humans can perform tasks, and if done right, it can also eliminate human error and repetitive work,” he says. 

About the Author(s)

Nathan Eddy

Freelance Writer

Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for InformationWeek. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin.

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights